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Shades of Red And Blue - BCB #11
"We reject labels, and also we can't live without them."
Like everybody else, we use Red and Blue as gross descriptors of the sides in the American conflict. And like everybody else, we’re wrong about this. These labels are useful shorthand — surely the sides are “real” in some sense — but they’re also limiting, polarizing stereotypes. Exploring the differences within each side is a step to better conflict.
There are different ways to map out the shades of Red and Blue; today we’re going to highlight three data-driven categorizations. This approach starts by surveying many people about their political attitudes, and then analyzing how their answers cluster.
The Hidden Tribes of America is a 2018 study that broke Red and Blue into seven distinct political stripes, from “Progressive Activists” to “Devoted Conservatives.” The largest faction is the “politically disengaged” representing 26% of the US population.
The Pew Research Center did a similar study in 2021, and came up with a system of nine political categories, from “committed conservatives” and “populist right” to the “establishment liberals” and the “progressive left”. They categorized 15% of folks as “stressed sideliners.”
Our third study is global, and attempts to “measure ideology from the ground up” with data from the long-running World Values Survey. This is the only one of these studies to identify more than one dimension of difference. They map the usual left-right axis, but also find another major ideological dimension around citizen trust in institutions, noting that this aligns with recent anti-establishment or populist politics. As we’ve written before, we think the axis of institutional trust is key to the American conflict.
Yet it may be the disengaged centrists who are the key to moving forward – what one researcher calls the “exhausted majority.” The most politically engaged are also the most suspicious and reactive; we’ve been conditioned to remain suspicious.
New and Interesting
“The largest social science experiment of its kind tested 25 techniques for reducing anti-democratic attitudes, partisan animosity, and support for political violence in a study of 31,000 Americans.” The top performers were intergroup contact (we totally called this one), addressing mistrust in the media, and creating a common ingroup identity.
“I analyzed time-diary data from three countries and found that time spent talking to other people—both inside the home and outside of it—has been in decline for nearly 30 years.” This researcher argues that increasing concentration on our interior lives is chipping away at our ability to feel empathy for others.
That, plus online Black political expression, authenticity in political candidates, and Black culture-building. Brandi Collins-Dexter, author of the forthcoming Black Skinhead discusses everything from her own cultural experiences to her thoughts on Kanye West.
There’s been a gradual increase in dissatisfaction with the Electoral College since 2016. However, the dissatisfied majority breaks along the usual lines: 80% of Red favors the current system, while 42% of Blue want the president elected by popular vote.
Quote of the Week
Simple, everyday conversations are more valuable than they seem on the surface… This seems worth a little discomfort.